November 17, 2011

A Microfiction Best-of

A few months before my son was born, I was looking for a way to keep writing even as new demands were about to be made on my time.  It was around that time Duane decided to open a twitter account for Here Be Monsters.   That reminded me of microfiction, these little, 140-characters stories that started on twitter.  It seemed like a cool, if challenging, idea.  So I started writing some.   To my delight, I found it to be great fun, and a good way to keep the writing alive even when I had very little time to sit down at the keyboard.  I started thinking about my small snippets of fiction at every moment of the day, driving to work, burping the baby, changing a diaper, making dinner, all the while trying to figure out a way to tell something fun without going over the character count. 

You can find some of those on the blog in the “Microfiction” section.  Some are also on Here Be Monsters’ facebook page.  And for today’s blog post, I’ve decided to post a microfiction best-of.   Here are some of my personal favourites, a top-ten of sorts, though the choice was hard, so I might post some more later.

The froth on his coffee sank as he waited. Not that he expected anyone in particular. He just liked    to wait.

Nothing but stars and nebulae broke the vast monotony of his fall. It ended somewhere in time, and when it did, he was really hungry.

They met at a restaurant none of them liked. They ate for the benefit of the surveillance team, went to the cellar and never came back up.

An accident on a country road started it. The first driver died on impact. The second did not, and nothing would ever stop him again.

He could honestly say he loved partying. Almost as much as food, or sex, or executing transplanar demons.

The elephant shattered the mirror. Professor Yi, frantic now, picked up the shards. Maybe he could still fix the machine.

They breached the vault at 1am. At 2:35, they broke into the box. At 3:04, they strolled out the front door. At 4:13, the world was changed.

Istanbul bustled. Suits, tourists, muezzins, boats on the river. In the music store, she asked for a ghost drum. They took her to the back.
She watched the sun rise over downtown after a sleepless night. The man on the couch was no longer hers. Sad and relieved, she made coffee.

He didn't stay long in Prague. Her smell was in parks, cafés, on bridges. His pain rose with the wind; he waited for the next good train.

There it is.  I should also mention that we’re accepting submissions of microfiction for issue 6, if you want to try your hand at this.  The deadline is January 16th, 2012.  These are really just for fun, so we do not offer any payment for them, but will use the ones we choose somewhere in the issue.  Maximum 140 characters.


  1. I loved the first microfiction. I think I could develop a fun short story based on that idea. It's amazing how you can set up such a clear picture of a situation with so little information and so few characters.

    Personally, I find coming up with the initial idea the most difficult part of writing. Building on an idea seems easier to me, but then you risk ruining it.

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  3. I think it's a French poet (Beaudelaire maybe?) who said that to write, you don't need ideas, you need words. That is to say, a good idea isn't enough, I think. As you say, there's a risk of ruining a good idea when you develop it (incidentally, that's part of the fun of microfiction: it's all about the idea, so there's less time for ruining it).

    What's the solution? How do you avoid ruining your good idea? Not sure, but one thing I found is that it helps if you keep possibilities open in your story. i.e. if you try not to answer everything, but leave questions open. Also I often try to make the ending feel like a new beginning of some sort, with new possibilities for the characters. I find if you answer too much, you lose that feeling of expectation that makes the reader excited, and you also kill the reader's own imagination, which I, as a reader, often find annoying.

    So when I write microfiction, I try to make it about possibilities, and to titillate the imagination. I'm glad it works at least some of the time.

    Thanks for your comment.